Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly San Francisco

January 10, 2023

Q: To begin, can you tell me a little bit about what Little Brothers SF does?

A: Our organization focuses on relieving isolation and loneliness among older adults in San Francisco. We have a variety of programs that are volunteer-driven. The volunteers deliver programs to the older adults. Before Covid, it was done in the older adults’ home, but now it's done remotely. We have about seven programs that assist our older adults. One of the programs is our Tech Allies program where we try to bridge the digital divide of older adults by teaching them how to use a computer.

We have a 1.0 program for beginners who have never used a digital device before. The 2.0 program is the next step up. It was developed during Covid so our older adults could use patient portals, make virtual calls for medical appointments, and connect with volunteers over Zoom or FaceTime. 

For the 2.0, we worked in conjunction with the University of California San Francisco to measure outcomes of whether getting older adults connected helped reduce isolation and lead to better health outcomes. The older adults that we serve didn't grow up with a computer on their desks, so they've missed that digital interaction that we all take for granted. We knew during Covid that we had to do something to relieve the isolation that was affecting all of us and help them get health support.

Q: Can you touch a bit more on the donation aspect – the technology and hardware that Revivn is able to provide for you? How does that play a role in this program? 

A: Anytime we can help defer costs is really important to a small organization like ours. We depend on grants and contributions from individuals. Anytime we get a donation to help with that expense, the money it saves us can go into our other programs. 

Q: What kind of assets are being donated to you? 

A:  Many iPads and MacBooks. Right now our curriculum for Tech Allies 1.0 and 2.0 supports the iPads. I'm working with the nonprofit that developed our curriculum to see if we can also develop a curriculum for the MacBooks. We can now put the money we saved from not having to buy iPads into the curriculum for the MacBook. The screen is going to be bigger for our older adults so now we have an option for our older adults. To be able to give them choices in their learning is very important. 

Q: Can you describe to me a bit about your relationship with Revivin? 

A: Nick and I talked in the Fall of 2021. The donations were delivered to my home in 2022. Now, they're here in the office. I have a new employee focused solely on the Tech Allies programs. She’s going through the curriculum to see what kind of changes we have to make with the mini iPads and the Mac Airbooks because of new curriculums and operating systems. The relationship's been fairly easy. 

Q: Can you share a little bit about how these older individuals find you? 

A: Many different ways. Sometimes somebody in their building will talk about our programs and they will call the office, so you can self-refer to our organization. Eight times out of ten it's social workers. A social worker is made aware that an older adult doesn't have any family support or lacks companionship with friends. They refer that older adult to our organization. The person has to be 65 years or older and there's no cost to join.

Q: Are there any specific stories that you would like to share about this program impacting lives?

We've had great stories. Somebody who was just trained this past fall was estranged from her daughter and granddaughter. Through our Tech Allies program, they connected over FaceTime. They were able to see each other for the first time in 30 years. It is just amazing what we take for granted. 

Another one of our older adults that completed the program, her family is in Jamaica and New York City. She has spoken to them over the phone, but has not seen their faces for probably 40 years. Through FaceTime, they were able to see each other and send pictures back and forth. We really made the world smaller for some of our older adults. Even looking at the medical side of it, many of our older adults have medical issues. Going to the doctor during Covid was scary, so we really gave them a lifeline to their doctors. 

Q: Thank you for sharing those. Why should tech companies consider donating their retired hardware? And can you share a little bit about the impact this has on the community?

A: We live in a disposable society. You get the latest iPhone. You get the latest Apple Watch. You get the latest tech device, but the ones you were using before still have some great life left in them. Our older adults don't need anything fancy. They need it to connect to the internet. They need it to get emails. There's still value in old equipment. It's so important to know that there's schools, senior centers, and organizations like Little Brother's Friends of the Elderly that really are in desperate need of some technical devices. If we don't have to spend money on a device because it's donated, then we can use those funds to have an updated curriculum, have that book bound better, use that money for direct services, or pay the electric bill. So it's really important for us to be able to defer the cost of something that's so crucial to the clients we work with. One person's junk is somebody else's treasure. 

Q: Is there anything else you feel is important to mention about your relationship or partnership with Revivin?

A: It was really nice that we got these extra MacBooks. I asked Nick if I could share the wealth with another organization and he said of course. It's nice to be able to give something back to some of those other organizations. I like that there aren’t any strings attached to the donation. It's really important for corporations to understand how valuable that is to a nonprofit, school, or library because it's really helpful for us. I think what's important is that this relationship with Revivn can continue. We started our Tech Allies program in 2017. We can’t even use those iPads that we originally used anymore. Technology changes fast. If it slowed down a little bit, some of these devices would still work. I just think that there's such goodness out there and we need to share the wealth with everyone.